April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there won't be a Child Abuse Awareness luncheon & awards ceremony this year.
In 1991, the North Carolina General Assembly created local teams in each county to recommend improvements to help reduce child abuse & neglect. The Lincoln County Community Child Protection Team (CCPT) meets monthly to review active cases of abuse and neglect from the Department of Social Services (DSS).
Sherry Reinhardt, executive director for the Lincoln County Child Advocacy Center, made an annual report to Lincoln County Commissioners at their meeting on February 17th. Reinhardt said Lincoln County had 929 child abuse cases in 2019 involving 1929 children. The youngest of those was only 14 months. She said the numbers have been fairly consistent through the years. "When I started ten years ago, the number was a little over two thousand. It goes up and down, but it's about the same here as elsewhere: nationally, one in ten children is abused or neglected."
Reinhardt said of the cases which were reviewed last year, 47% had drug abuse involved, 33% were attributed to poor parenting skills, 6% included domestic violence and 33% of those cases included physical abuse of a child while 22% included sexual abuse.
County Commission Chairman Carrol Mitchem said he thinks most people aren't aware of how big the problem is. "We've got to make sure that people understand." Reinhardt agreed, but added that one big problem in Lincoln County is the lack of transportation. Of the cases reported through child protective services, 43% did not have adequate transportation.”
Just how big is the problem?
In the United States, more than 4 children die from child abuse or neglect every day. Over 70% of those children are below the age of 3. Boys (48.5%) and girls (51.2%) become victims at nearly the same rate. 2.9 million cases of child abuse are reported every year.
According to the US Department of Justice ("Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics"), 1 out of 3 girls and 1 out of 5 boys will be sexually abused before they reach age 18. 90% of child sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way. 68% are abused by a family member.
2.9 million cases of child abuse are reported every year in the United States. Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit a violent crime. (source: Safe Horizon. "Child Abuse Facts.")
The Lincoln County Coalition Against Child Abuse operates the Child Advocacy Center on Policarp Street in Lincolnton. It is dedicated to coordinating efforts in cases of abuse. The Child Advocacy Center provides forensic interviews and referrals for other resources and follow-up care, including court accompaniment for victimized children.
The CAC needs volunteers for fundraising events, monetary donations, and in-kind donations (such as gently used stuffed animals, paper products, and cleaning products) to keep the center running. It is a United Way agency and your contribution to the United Way of Lincoln County will in part go to help the CAC.